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Le Moulin de l’Abbaye in Brantome: A fantasy by the River Dronne

Written By | Feb 12, 2018
Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye in Brantome. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

›BRANTOME, FRANCE, February 12, 2018: Le Moulin de l’Abbaye is a romantically picturesque luxury hotel and Michelin starred restaurant situated in one of the most exquisite locations imaginable.

Set in the town of Brantome, the l’Abbaye sits on the edge of a rushing spillway along the Dronne River. The ancient bridge, it conjures the magical images of a place that could only exist in one’s dreams.

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Le Moulin de l’Abbaye – From mill to luxury hotel

This exceptional Relais & Chateaux property seems suspended in space between the river, the dam, the bridge, and the rushing water.

With only 8 rooms upstairs in the waterfront building and twelve rooms in the outlying building, it is an enticing base to explore the various wonders of Brantome and the medieval and renaissance architecture throughout. The town is classed as one of ‘les Plux Beaux Detours’  or one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France offering visitors a rich cultural heritage.

The restaurant and hotel have been members of Relais & Chateaux since the 1980’s.  The name itself means the “The Mill by the Abbaye.”  The mill was built in the 17th century and over the centuries has been a working gristmill for grain, a factory for spinning and weaving wool, and a hydroelectricity generator for the village.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

The Benedictine Abbaye of Charlemagne next to Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

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Le Moulin de l’Abbaye – Charlemagne’s Benedictine Abbaye

Founded in 769 by King Charlemagne, the Benedictine Abbaye is a massive imposing structure that looks down over the restaurant.  It is said that Charlemagne donated the relics, bones, of Saint Sicarius, one of the children massacred by King Herod during the Massacre of the Innocents, to the Abbaye.

Pilgrims and acolytes over the early centuries were drawn to the Brantome monastery to pray to Saint Sicarius.

The Romanesque church bell tower, built in the 11th Century, is said to be one of the oldest and tallest in France.

Caves behind the Abbaye hold the original troglodyte, or cave, dwellings of the original Benedictine monks. Guarding the southern entrance nearby are the Renaissance Tower and the round Tour St Roche, at the entrance to the Pont Coude bridge.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye with the Pont Coude and the Benedictine Abbaye in the background. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Abbaye was destroyed by Viking invaders in the 857, rebuilt at the end of the 10th century, and again in 1480 at the end of the Hundred Years war, before its final restoration in 1850 by architect Paul Abadie.

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 Le Moulin de l’Abbaye – the town of Brantome

Brantome is charming and sophisticated with modern restaurants and shopping. The town is an island surrounded by three canals carved out of the river Donne.

Located in the Dordogne region of France, it is in the hill country above the regional capital of Perigueux. The drive there is awash in the countries bucolic scenery.


The town is a mix of medieval and renaissance architecture and is frequently referred to as the “Venice of Perigord” for how it is surrounded on all sides by canals and the Dronne River.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

The main square in Brantome near Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

With a population of only around 2200, the town is bustling with outdoor cafes, lovely storefronts, refurbished townhouses, and meticulously restored residences with the upscale feel of a getaway spot for well-heeled tourists.

Brantome is a place to capture the history and grandeur of the massive Abbaye, the charm and genteel feel of the town, and the serenity and beauty of Le Moulin de l’Abbaye.

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Le Moulin de l’Abbaye – The Restaurant

There is a glorious otherworldly nature to the visage of the old mill turned Michelin starred Relais & Chateaux restaurant and luxury hotel.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

It has been an intriguing personal mental presence in travel books for years. It is immeasurably more impressive and fairytale like in person. It is in many ways the jewel in the crown in the life of Brantome.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

The lobby and sitting room at Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A charming entranceway gives way to an expansive lobby and sitting area filling the lower chamber of the hotel. Casually elegant furnishings fill the room where pre-dinner cocktails and after dinner drinks of brandy and cognac are served.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

The white stone dining room at Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The large interior dining room is awash in white stone, dappled light steaking through scenic windows, lending an elegant air to the proceedings.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

Michelin starred Chef Loic Lecoin at Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Michelin starred Chef Loic Lecoin presides over the restaurant with an innovative and stunning take on Haute Cuisine, emphasizing local ingredients and the abundance of this region of France.

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye – The setting

Today, glorious springtime temperatures and an effervescent breeze, mean lunch will be served on the patio. The atmosphere is of incomparable beauty. The eclectic sense of serenity is a palpable emotion.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

Lunch begins at Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

While dining, the waters of the river Donne flow over the dam through the portals of the Pont Coude bridge, the sun glinting off the water amidst a flotilla of ducks.

Boaters can rent kayaks to explore the scenic wonders of the river, paddling their canoes over the dam and thru the bridge on a regular basis, to the delight of diners on the patio.


Le Moulin de l’Abbaye – the meal begins

An amuse bouche of lobster gelee with a glass of pink champagne is a perfect starter, the patio filling with diners as this landmark location shows its mettle.

Two courses of Foie Gras are served, and Chef Lecoin’s brilliant talents are on full display in both preparations.

The first is a terrine of Foie Gras surrounded by fruit in a creamy base, the Foie Gras rich but delicate, a gelee crust over a textured soft, sumptuous pillow of duck liver mousse.

Seared Foie Gras follows, perfectly cooked, crisp and firm on the outside and bursting with juicy gelatinous flavor on the inside, capturing the intricacies of both preparations ..

The courses are initially paired with a local Sauvignon blanc, light and fruity with a crisp aftertaste.

A fruit forward but full-bodied› red wine, a 2013 Chateau Belingard Cotes de Bergerac, accompanies the second half of the meal.

Service is immaculate as Head Waiter Marc Guillumette presides over a crisply efficient staff with a casual elegance.

A local Calliou fish, somewhat like catfish, is tender and flaky, beautifully textured, with a light crust in a rich cream sauce, served on seared potatoes alongside a roast fig.

Veal fillet with seared sweetbreads is sensational, the fillet completely tender, the sweetbreads,  the thymus or the pancreas, are a fabulous surprise, and a delicate counterpoint to the lean fillet.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

Fillet of veal paired with sweetbreads at Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

As with the Foie Gras, Chef Lecoin is showing two sides of the veal, each classically splendid, but combined here to great effect, and wildly delicious.

A desert of beetroot mouse with a beetroot sorbet is wonderfully innovative, completely delightful, and consumed rapaciously.

The hours fly by in an afternoon of culinary delirium, and it is a great sadness to have to leave. The air is crisp, a gentle afternoon breeze whispering through the rustling branches above the sunlit patio.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

It is as if a spell had been cast and has preserved this elegant day in the glowing amber of memory. Chef Lecoin is an audacious rising star whose talents are well worth the trip to this corner of Perigord.

Indeed, if the beauty and charm of the location and the splendor of Brantome were not enough, Le Moulin de L’Abbaye is a singular indulgence of the soul meant to be embraced, savored, satiated, and one day, returned to.


If you go:

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye

TEL: +33 (0) 5 53 05 80 22

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Air France flies direct to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and from there to the rest of France and all of Europe from Washington, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a number of American cities.


Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles Follow Joel on Twitter @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds Follow Alison on Twitter @BigAlPeoplesPal

Joel Berliner

Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles who has written for The Washington Times, Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Honolulu Advertiser, El Paso Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among many other publications. He is excited to be here at CDN, where along with his wife, photographer extraordinaire Alison Reynolds, they will travel the globe in order to bring you The Good Life.